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Resident loses suit for Farm Road easement

A Montgomery County resident is not entitled to an easement for an unrecognized road that runs by his house, the Court of Special Appeals has held.

Gregg D. Bacon had filed the lawsuit in June 2006 against a number of agencies and individuals including the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Macris, Hendricks & Glasscock P.A., the company that surveyed a subdivision at the north end of the area. Bacon sought to establish an easement on an unrecognized road he wanted to use to access his property in Sandy Spring.

The so-called “Farm Road” does not exist on any county maps but it runs through an area of about 100 acres, settled after the Civil War by emancipated slaves. The properties were passed down through families over time, and, according to current residents, Farm Road has been used since the 1890s for ingress and egress.

The lower portion of the road historically ended at Brooke Road, where it was flanked by the Sandy Spring Slave Museum and a private residence. The owner of the home, a defendant in the case, had blocked access to the portion of the road that crosses her property. She later removed the obstacle and was dismissed from the case.

Bacon appealed after the Montgomery County Circuit Court struck his fourth amended complaint, which was filed on May 21, 2010. He argued that the court abused its discretion in dismissing the complaint and in finding that the statute of limitations had run on his tort and Constitutional claims.

The limitations issue took up much of Thursday’s opinion by the appellate court, authored by Judge Shirley M. Watts.

Bacon argued that the three-year limitations clock should have started running in 2007. The lower court ruled that it started when Bacon bought the property in 2002 and ended in 2005. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, noting that Bacon should have known the restrictions on accessing Farm Road.

“Nothing in the record demonstrates that [Bacon] was unaware of the circumstances surrounding his access to the property at the time he purchased it in 2002, such that he should be excused from having investigated until 2006, when he first filed a complaint,” Judge Shirley M. Watts wrote in the opinion.

Raj S. Singh, who represented Bacon, did not return calls for comment on whether he would ask the Court of Appeals to review the case.

The disputed road was also central to another lawsuit, filed by other residents, in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt in 2008. In that action, the residents also alleged discrimination, fraud and an effort to leave the properties landlocked with lower property values.

In a July 15, 2011 opinion, Judge Roger W. Titus dismissed with prejudice three of the claims that dealt with alleged due process violations and a claim of taking without just compensation. The remaining claims dealing with whether there was a right to an easement were dismissed without prejudice. The case was closed and court records since indicate no further activity.

WHAT THE COURT HELD

Case:

Gregg Daniel Bacon v. Paul Arey, Et al., CSA No. 2339, Sept. Term 2010. Argued Feb. 6, 2012. Decided March 29, 2012. Reported. Opinion by Watts, J.

Issue:

Did the Montgomery County Circuit Court err in granting a motion to strike the fourth amended complaint in a lawsuit over a landlocked, unrecognized road?

Holding:

No, affirmed. There was no abuse of discretion on the lower court’s part and the ruling that the statute of limitations applied was correct.

RecordFax #12-0329-03 (63 pages)